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Community health care needs improvement: report

The Department of Health and Social Services has a long way to go in its plans to overhaul the health-care system.

The Department of Health and Social Services has a long way to go in its plans to overhaul the health-care system.

A report released this week identifies serious gaps in the territory’s current health and social service system, and plots an ambitious path towards better care for Yukoners.

It won’t come as a surprise to most that health and social service delivery outside of Whitehorse is largely inadequate to meet the needs of Yukon’s communities.

Alcohol, drug and mental services are lacking in particular, according to the report.

“No provider or service interview conducted during the study was silent on the enormity of the problem with, and impact of, the abuse of alcohol in Yukon Territory,” the authors of the report wrote.

The consultants’ review of community health centres found many to be under-staffed.

“Two of the health centres are single nurse stations; concerns are significant with respect to safety and sustainability of a single nurse model.”

Physician visits in most communities are infrequent, and Watson Lake has no permanent full-time doctors, the report noted.

And even though Yukon has changed its legislation to allow nurse practitioners to practice in the territory, the only one to register so far works in Whitehorse and has been unable to acquire hospital privileges.

And there is very little collaboration between health and social services in the communities, which means that individuals are not being served in a holistic way.

The report recommends that six regional collaborative care centres be established outside of Whitehorse to serve all of Yukon’s communities, and that a further five be established in the capital region.

There should be a nurse practitioner working at each rural care centre, according to the report.

The centres should also provide access to physiotherapists, occupational therapists and child abuse treatment workers.

The centres should develop strategies for managing the diagnosis of childhood development issues and fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.

Yukon’s communities should also establish shelters for both men and women, according to the report. Transportation and housing in communities must also be improved.

Paddy Meade, deputy minister of health and social services, said at a media briefing last week that overhauling the health system in the territory will be a long journey.

“It would be lovely if we could do it in my lifetime,” she said.

The work to improve care in the communities has already begun, said Meade.

For example, people in the communities who need to come to Whitehorse for surgery can now do their surgical consultation by telehealth, saving themselves the extra trip.

The change is less about an end goal and more about a continual process of reform and evaluation, she said.

The next step is for the department to review the report’s findings and recommendations and develop a plan of action.

If all goes well, that could be ready in the next year, said Meade.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at